Thursday, October 13, 2016

Timing, distance and single stick

It's called "Ma-ai" in Japanese martial arts and in western martial arts its often referred to using two separate concepts: "Measure and Tempo".  George Silver approached this concept as "Finding the true place".  Ma-ai is timing and distancing combined into a unified concept.  According to my karate instructors, the Ma-ai has a distinct feeling that you can use, like radar, tactically.  It is fine tuned awareness of danger.

There is only one Ma-ai between two opponents and in this sense it is a distance. It is the range where you can still escape but where your presence will still influence the behaviour of your opponent. When you are at the "inside edge of the Ma-ai you will have a prickly feeling that you are almost, but not quite, too close.  Inside the Ma-ai is danger:  you will most likely be hitting your opponent, being hit by them, or stifling the attacks by grappling.  At the outside edge of the Ma-ai your opponent will still be poised with awareness, ready to engage.  Moving beyond that distance will cause your influence on your opponent to diminish.  The opponent may relax and re-stage or they may try to approach again.

Tempo and measure in western martial arts are two separated concepts but they work together and they include more than just timing and distancing.  Tempo suggests a relationship between the rhythm of the opponent and your own rhythms.  You can move on the beat or on a half or quarter beat.  The measure also implies a relationship.  You can "Find the Measure" of your opponent.  The measure is the place where your weapon will be effective.

George Silver talked about finding the "True Place".  The True Place is the position where you can strike your opponent without them striking you.  Finding the true place implies a dynamic relationship between you and your opponent.  Silver mentions timing choices to find the True Place.  You can enter within striking range by attacking First, Before, Just, and After.  Each of these timings provides a way to get to the True Place.  All of this is to achieve the "True Fight".  The True Fight is the fight where you escape unscathed.

All of these concepts are valuable models describing the intricate play between timing and distancing.  If you understand timing and distancing you will have a decided advantage over an opponent who does not.  So much so that it almost does not matter what you hit your opponent with if you are a master of timing and distancing.

When Silver talked about the True Place he was talking about a position rather than a distance per se.  The True Place is any position where you can strike with impunity.  The True Place is momentary.  No opponent will allow you to stand for long in such a position of advantage.  So the True Place is fleeting and Silver admonishes us to fly in and then out again and to use our position to bait our opponent and to enter safely when we can.

"The Ma-ai requires advancing and retreating, separating and meeting." From the Bubishi.

He suggests that we use timing to enter and then adds that we can safely move into the true place by crossing swords as well.  Crossing swords can also provide a true place because your sword acts as a fence to protect you when you are in an otherwise unwise place.

The True place is a function of distance but also positioning. It is also a function of the range of weapon ranges and where the target is that you are aiming at.  Silver encourages us to aim at hands and arms because an outstretched arm is closer to your sword than your opponent's sword is to your head or body. To attack at a range where you can also be struck requires that you cross blades in order to protect yourself.  To cross blades creates possibilities to bind and wind, parry and block.  You can become very proficient in these skills.  But things happen very fast when you are fencing outside of the true place. Furthermore you are subject to being overwhelmed by stronger opponents if you are the weaker, smaller one.

Silver used the soldier's weapon, the shorter arming sword instead of the rapier that was lauded by the Italian Maestros of his day.  He even suggested optimum lengths for these swords, limiting them to allow their maneuverability when close to the opponent.  But above all, he emphasized cutting what was available from a safe place.  To not do this is to scoff at the deadliness of the sword.

Enter single stick.  I like single stick for lots of reasons.  It is historical.  People practiced stick fighting, cane fighting, small sword, and sabre using single sticks.  The single stick is basically just a stout sword length stick. It is inexpensive and relatively safe for beginners to use.  The single stick is fast and therefore builds awareness and agility.   The single stick is not really a sword and it does not act like one.  It is too light,  has no edge, and the weighting is all wrong.  But the single stick is also a contemporary weapon of self defence as well as a historical practice weapon.  I can teach the use of a single stick to my stepdaughter and her friends and they can use that skill to defend themselves if they need to.

Lately, I have been using single stick to teach about the True Fight and the True Place.  Because considerations of timing and distancing are fundamental to all martial arts the lessons learned can be adapted to other ways of fighting. 

One objection to using the single stick is the emphasis on striking the hands.  Longsword competitions in particular do not often allow hand strikes and so, it is reasoned, the cross over from single stick is limited.  But the sensation of managing timing and distance is fundamental to fighting and to martial arts.  If you face an opponent empty handed you will still need to understand timing and distance.  The specific distance of the Ma-ai is not a finite distance. It is based on a feeling and on the dynamics of the situation.  Getting in and out of the Ma-ai feels the same regardless of the type of weapon that you or your opponent is using.

As for longsword, this weapon is about ranged fighting.  Its primary function is to be swift and powerful that you use to attack from Largo, that is, from the Ma-ai.  Close play occurs when you cross blades and you need the skills of close play to stay safe and to enter into grappling range.  But staying in the red zone where you are both able to strike and duking it out is not a high form.  

Silver's lessons are pertinent to the longsword.  Don't get hit.  Avoid getting hit by getting in and then getting out in such a way that your opponent can't hit you.  Do this by using timing, positioning, and crossing blades when you need to and by changing the game by closing to grapple. 

The question becomes, then, "Can I adapt the lessons of Silver gained from single stick to longsword and to sword work in general?"  The answer is this: what you learn regarding timing and distancing is fundamental and applies to all weapons, even to spears.  Even to projectile weapons.  Even in large scale movements of troops.  Seek to become proficient in timing and distance, apply these concepts in all of your fighting and you will see how it can transform your skills.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

I Have No Parents Revisited

I Have No Parents
I make the heavens and the earth my parents. 
I have no home: 
I make awareness my home. 
I have no life or death: 
I make the tides of breathing my life and death. 
I have no divine power: 
I make honesty my divine power: 
I have no means: 
I make understanding my means. 
I have no magic secrets: 
I make character my magic secret. 
I have no body: 
I make endurance my body. 
I have no eyes: 
I make the flash of lightning my eyes. 
I have no ears: 
I make sensibility my ears. 
I have no limbs: 
I make promptness my limbs. 
I have no strategy: 
I make "unshadowed by thought" my strategy. 
I have no designs: 
I make seizing opportunity by the forelock my design. 
I have no miracles: 
I make right action my miracles. 
I have no principles: 
I make adaptability to all circumstances my principles. 
I have no tactics: 
I make emptiness and fullness my tactics. 
I have no talents: 
I make ready wit my talent. 
I have no friends: 
I make my mind my friend. 
I have no enemy: 
I make carelessness my enemy. 
I have no armour: 
I make benevolence and righteousness my armour. 
I have no castle: 
I make immovable mind my castle. 
I have no sword: 
I make absence of self my sword. 
Anonymous Samurai 
14th Century

When I first read this I was simply enamoured by the images of selfless knights.
Then it reminded me of how disconnected from community and how people can become isolated from those who matter.
Now I reflect on the impermanent and  insubstantial and how in the absence of certainty, a code can light up the darkness and provide a way.

We talk of lessons learned and of ardently following a way or a belief, and of the certainty that is based on experiences past.

But our memories are unreliable.  

We exaggerate the good things and make them better than they were.  We also exaggerate the bad things and make them more onerous and terrible.  

We re-write our memories every time we think through them.  Each visit leaves a mark until only a vestige of what was remains.  

We compare ourselves to shiny mounds of gold and feel poor.  When we compare ourselves to a pile of rusty detritus and we feel rich.  

We are not good at knowing ourselves.

We are like the aging Don Quixote, whose memory of what was has marred his perception of what is until he tilts with windmills and calls them dragons.

We try to follow codes and the codes are based on beliefs which are based on the past and we do not remember with any accuracy what was in the past at all.  

We fervently admonish our students and our children to follow the way, and the intensity of our words is fear based.  It's a fear that is based on the belief that something bad will happen if we repeat the past.   

We want to believe that our life experiences  can be reliable teachers.   But each life experience is a sample size of one.   We cannot rely on a sample size of one.  We cannot rely on memory.  We cannot rely on the memory of our teachers.

But we have codes and we rely on them.  Its a bit of a catch 22.

The best we can do is to have an opinion and to always be prepared to update our opinion. Each experience is fresh then.  There is still a role for codes and beliefs.  There is just no place for dogma.  We cannot afford to be rigid because it is so easy to be wrong.  Our inability to see ourselves clearly is what causes this.  

So all those things, lessons learned, and all those rigid beliefs?  Relax.  We are simply not that smart.  Each moment is a new one.  Each choice is fresh.  We are not burdened by the responsibility of having to be correct.  We take our shots and deal.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Values in the martial arts.

Watching the news this week inspired me to write again about values and what I want to promote in Swordfighters.  There is an awful lot of duplicity in the world today.  This isn't new I suppose but the way people are universally sick of it regardless of their beliefs is stunning.   This begs a question about what your values are.

As a martial arts instructor, I am not interested in ideological thinking, dogma, or hierarchy though I value and respect my own teachers and students.  Ideologies often seem like a good idea at the time but somehow the original good idea ends up robbing people of awareness and independence. Anyways...without belabouring this post with justifications for writing it here are some thoughts about values in martial arts.

  1. You are free.  You can do what you want.  What you decide to do and how you do it is up to you.  Free will exists despite pressures against it.  I am not your mom or someone that you have to pledge allegiance to. My relationship to you as a teacher is finite.  We are colleagues. Brothers and Sisters in a shared endeavour.
  2. You are responsible for your own spiritual, physical, mental development.  You need to commit to being responsible for your own growth.
  3. You are responsible for the consequences of your actions.  Martial arts in its essence is about being willing to take action.  It is active and not passive.  Its not crazy though.  You are responsible for what you do.
  4. Know what matters to you.  Aspire to a code of values.  You don't have to believe what I believe but you need to have a decent code and you need to try to stick to it.  Here is a list of values that I tend to gravitate towards and think about a lot.  This is personal.  I decided what matters to me.  It is a code that I aspire to and its not etched in concrete.  It has changed as I learned and grew.  I simplified it over time.  The act of working our your personal code is really valuable and a lifelong pursuit.
    • Honor:  My word has to mean something
    • Honesty: Tell the truth
    • Integrity:  What I think, say, feel, and do must all match
    • Courage: Sometimes doing the right thing is hard.  Do it anyway.  
    • Humility: I will fail to hold to my values sometimes. I want to use this realization to bring about kindness and tenacity in myself.
    • Kindness:  Because I fail in my endeavours at times I know what it feels like to struggle. I do not know the dark battles that others face.  Be kind always.
    • Tenacity:    I want to discipline myself to endeavour. The old saying "Fall down seven times get up eight" sticks in my mind. 
  5. Face yourself. Face your fears. That is where your real growth lies.
  6. Question everything. Do not hold to dogma.  Adjust your world view when confronted with evidence of the truth.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Swords and Gear

Much of practice does not require protective gear.  You can learn basic movements with no gear at all really. Even some light sparring can occur without it.  At some point though you will need gear.  Without sparring gear, you won't be able to fight at speed and your sense of timing and distance will suffer.  In practice the gear allows you to experiment and to take some chances.  It also allows you to spar.  Sparring is fun.  Sparring is the laboratory that you can do those experiments in.  Using gear and sparring with blunt swords. like any form of sparring really, is not the same as a fight.  Its a tool that simulates fa real fight.  It keeps you safe.
Its an exciting time to practice western martial arts.  Everything is in development. We are studying the old and reconstructing something new right here right now.  Bureaucracies have not yet solidified and the methods themselves are being rediscovered and are not yet codified.  Likewise with gear.  Until recently most gear has been made by users or handcrafted by makers.  There are a few companies that are just now starting to mass market specific pieces but there is still no "one right way".  The search for the safest, most cost effective, most well made gear continues.
Nevertheless I have some preferences for gear.  I like the SPES jackets.  I like several helmet brands.  Gauntlets continue to be problematic. It is hard to make a glove that provides sufficient protection while also maintaining mobility and lightness.  
There are three levels of protection that I use for my hands.  The lightest level of protection is a light leather glove.  I came across some deer hide motorcycle gauntlets that protect me from minor bumps and abrasions.  For light sparring I like to use Red Dragon gloves which are reminiscent of lacrosse gloves.  For heavy sparring I use Ensifer's Sparring Glove and there are several similar products out there.   St. Mark's Koning Glove is new on the market and holds great promise.  I look forward to checking these out.

Basic Gear requirements for Swordfighters

Beginners practice

  • Swords are provided
  • Scuff free indoor shoes
  • Personal protection (cups or breast protection)
  • Clothing suitable for working out, specifically,  long sleeve T-shirt,  shorts or workout pants that cover the knees
  • Hard shell elbow and knee pads.
  • A gorget (neck protection) or hockey neck guard.

Light Sparring

In addition to the above:
  • Synthetic or steel sparring sword (some synthetic loaners are available)
  • A HEMA helmet or Three weapon fencing mask augmented with protection for the back of the head.
  • A HEMA jacket  or an inexpensive alternative such as an old leather jacket, motocross gear,  or several thick sweatshirts worn over top one another. Motocross gear is cool to wear and provides stiff protection over your most important bits and pieces. You can  often find it used at the Consignment Shop here in Vernon.

Heavy or Tournament Sparring

In addition to the basic requirements above:
  • A steel sword
  • Helmet or three weapon mask with occipital protection (a metal helmet is fine for practices though some tournaments will require HEMA gear)
  • A HEMA specific jacket (heavy armour that performs the same function is also fine for practice with a similar restriction for tournaments)

Gear Reviews

HRoARR has been maintaining a review of gear lately.  Check it out:

Sword Suppliers

Wooden Practice Swords

Purpleheart Armory wooden wasters  Good for inexpensive practice up to sparring.

Synthetic Swords

The synthetic swords that we are presently using in class are the Purpleheart Armory Type III synthetic sword.  I am interested in the Blackfencer line as well, particularly the sharp simulator below.  The sharp simulators have a significant sawtooth pattern on the edges which makes the blade act more like a sharp sword when in the bind.  It's a cool idea.  Watch them in action!

Steel Swords

I use an Albion Meyer steel sword.  It is light and agile an I generally like it though it is less substantial than some of the other swords.  Angus Trim makes a really nice "I-Beam" longsword that several of my colleagues use.  Here are links to several sword suppliers that I like.


The minimum standard for helms is a good quality, no nonsense, three weapon mask.  All of the HEMA masks that you can buy are derivations on this.  If you don't buy a HEMA mask then you will have to augment the Three weapon mask with occipital protection to do heavy sparring.  Considering that the helm is protecting a pretty important piece of real estate they are actually not very expensive and ought to be the very first thing that you buy.  For most HEMA activities it is all that you need.  If you become interested in fighting in armour you will need a full armour kit which is expensive and/or time consuming to acquire or build.
Purpleheart Armory PBT Mask plus mask cover or back of head protector below
Zen Warrior Mask  (You will need a mask cover with this)
You may need to add additional leather to the back of this mask.

Neck Protection

This is to protect mainly from accidental thrusts to the neck. Its one of the pieces of gear that seems unnecessary until you get hit in the neck.

In Vernon, check out the consignment store, Sport Chek, or Sun Valley Sports for hockey neck protection.


Red Dragon gloves from Purpleheart Armory  suitable for light sparring
Ensifer Sparring Gloves  suitable for heavy sparring

Other gauntlets are constantly being developed.  Some people prefer metal gauntlets though these may not be allowed in some tournaments. The above Koning glove may be the answer that everyone has been waiting for.


I really like having a sparring jacket. In many respects it is the equivalent of a medieval gambeson except that it has zippers!

Sparring Pants

There are several companies that produce sparring pants.  They are not essential.   Both of these companies make solid gear and you can find several reviews of them online. The trousers are based on fencing knickers. I have always found them to be somewhat restrictive. I am waiting for an updated version of trousers that are built with more room in the legs and hips and I do not really need thigh protection. I do like the SPES concept of attaching knee protection right to the trouser knees and I would like that in a looser fitting garment. I also like belts. Both of the trousers use suspenders and to me they are in the "seems like a good idea at the time" category. When you use them the trousers ride up and crowd the boys. Until then, I like to use ¾ length shorts since they cover the knee and knee pads will fit under them.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

About teaching kids

Last week one of the kids hurt his ankle during practice.  I checked it out and it wasn’t a big deal.  I am sure it hurt though.  He smacked his ankle right on the funny bone.   I checked it out and got him to breathe and then encouraged him to rejoin the class.  His training partner got my attention as I prepared to move on.  “Uh, I don’t think thats a good idea.” he said.  “What’s not a good idea?”  I asked.  I started to lecture him about letting the other boy be responsible for his own actions.  He interrupted me.  “I don’t think he is ready to go yet.”  “Eh?  Why not?”  He moved closer and lowered his voice.  “He is pretty sensitive about stuff.”  “What do you mean?”  He moves closer still.  “Yesterday he punched a kid for teasing him.  He loses it sometimes.  It would be better to let him recover on his own.”   Such is the nature of teaching kids.  Such is the nature of teaching in general.

That was a pretty brave thing that the training partner did.  He supported his friend and disagreed with me.  I didn't have all the information that I needed.  I haven’t thanked him yet for letting me know and I have not complimented him yet for having the courage to talk to me about this yet but I intend to.

We do not often know what is going on inside the people we teach.  Everyone is potentially engaged in some form of battle that we may know nothing about.  Coincidentally I saw this projected as a Facebook meme the other day.  The admonition was: “Be Kind Always.”

This is why it is important to incorporate values training into martial arts.  We do not know what fears may be pressing on a student.  This is especially true with kids.  I began this year of working with the local community school by talking about my own past.  I told them about how I lived in a fairly rough community and I shared tales of how I defended myself as a kid.  Later that day, as I reflected on what I had said this year, I was troubled by my approach.  I had not talked much about the ethics of martial arts training in my introduction.  I should have.

In most martial arts disciplines values are taught alongside the skills.  “If you let fly with your anger, withhold your fist.  If you let fly with your fist withhold your anger.”  “A gentleman[woman] is never easily drawn into a fight.”  “If you practice with me you have to agree to stay out of fights.”  Perhaps it seems like an hypocrisy to tell people these things alongside teaching them ways to be violent.  It's not.

With kids it is essential to have a discussion about the responsibility of having power.  It is also essential to teach them to face the things, internal or external that they fear.  My teacher referred to this as “Learning to Face Yourself”.  I believe that facing yourself does two things.  It allows you to have self control for those times when fear may grip you and you become a “fear biter.”

Learning to face yourself allows you to act without restraint when you really need to as well. If you face yourself, then if you confront something that is genuinely dangerous you can act calmly and see things realistically. You will not give way to irrational fears.  Facing yourself somehow prevents your internal fears from magnifying the dangers.  Facing yourself thus helps with both self control and in those times when you must express yourself without constraint.

As a teacher you have to be conscious and clear about your own fears as well.  You have to know yourself as you are asking your students to know themselves.  You have a lot to consider as a teacher.  If you do not continue to face yourself, you will superimpose your own issues and fears over the messages that your students are sending you.   Teaching is a position of influence and should not be taken lightly.  If you look at teaching in this way, it is a continuation of your martial training.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

A glossary of terms for Swordfighters Beginning Longsword

This glossary is an amalgam of a list from Guy Windsor and additional terms that I have added.

Glossary of Terms related to Beginning Longsword

Abrazare: the Italian word for wrestling.  Medieval wrestling included grappling, strikes, kicks, joint locks and breaks
Accressere: to step forwards without passing
alla traversa: across
base: the area on the ground defined by a perimeter drawn around your feet.  In wrestling it also means to get to your hands and knees (the actual base then being defined by the area surrounded by a perimeter drawn around everything touching the ground.
Bicorno: two:horned. Specifically a guard position.
Breve: short. Specifically a guard position.
Colpo: a blow, either cut or thrust
Crossguard:  the crosspiece on the sword that protects the hand
Dente di Cinghiaro: The boar’s tooth
Destra: on the right
Discressere: to step back without passing
Posta di Donna: The woman’s guard
Falsa: false
False Edge:  also called dead side, the upper sharp edge of the blade when the blade is held in a conventional grip
Fendente: a descending blow
Footprint: the placement of your foot on the ground.  You can be flat footed or on your toes.
Posta di Fenestra: The window guard
Fora di strada: off the line; as in “accresco fora di strada”, “I step off the line”
forward weighted: a stance with the weight on the front foot
Frontale: frontal. Specifically a guard position.
Inside: relative to a stance or a type of strike. It is the chest side of your stance
Largo plays: things that happen at long range
Ligadura: a lock. Ligadura soprana= high lock; ligadura mezana= middle lock; ligadura sottana= lower lock.
Longa: long. Specifically a guard position.
Mandritto: forehand
Meza/ mezana: middle or half, depending on context.
Meza Spada : the middle third of the blade
Meza volta:the type of turn that results when you pass forward or backwards
Mezano: one of the 6 blows, these are horizontal. Literally, “middle blow”.
Neutral:  Referring to a stance with your feet evenly weighted and shoulder width apart.  Any time your feet are together.
Out of Measure:  the distance such that it takes more than one step to reach your opponent
Outside: Referring to a stance or a strike it is the back side of your stance
Passare: to pass; to step passing one foot past the other.
Passo: a passing step; also the space between your feet. Hence “passo alla traversa”, pass across.
Pommel:  weighted end of the sword
Porta di ferro: iron door. Specifically a guard position, either middle (mezana) or whole (tutta).
Posta: Guard position. Plural poste.
Posta Frontale: The frontal guard
Posta longa: The long position
Proper Measure: the distance that a technique is supposed to work.
Punta: point (of a weapon), or a thrust.
Punta di spada: the point of the sword down to the first third of the blade.  Also called the “weak”
rear weighted: a stance with the weight on the rear foot
Rebattere: to beat aside, specifically an incoming weapon.
Remedio: remedy; specifically the defence against an attack, usually some form of parry.
Rooting: to make it hard to be picked up or moved. It involves finding the biomechanically efficient postures to resist forces.
Rompere: to break, as in rompere di punta, to break the thrust (a defensive action).
Roverso: backhand
Stretto plays: things that happen at close range
Scambiare: to exchange. Specifically, scambiare di punta, the exchange of thrust (a defensive action).
Sinestra: on the left.
Sottano: a rising blow.
Strada: way, line. Specifically the line between two fencers. Usually in context “fora di strada”, off the line.
Strong line: a feature of a stance.  Its the direction where you can create or oppose the greatest force.  It is the biomechanically most efficient structure relative to resisting a force.
Tondo: a horizontal blow (as mezano).
Tornare: to step (pass) backwards.
True Edge: also called the live side, the lower sharp edge of the blade when the blade is held in a conventional grip
Tutta: whole or full.
Tutta Spada : the lower third of the blade.  Literally the whole blade.  Also called the strong.
Tutta volta: turning by pivoting on one foot
Vera croce: true cross. Specifically a guard position.
Volta: turn, specifically volta stabile, stable turn; meza volta, half turn; tutta volta, whole turn.
Volta stabile :turning while keeping both feet in place
Weak line: in a stance the directions where you cannot resist forces
Zenghiaro: wild boar. Specifically a guard position. Usual form “posta di dente di zenghiaro”, position of the wild boar’s tooth.
Zogho largo: wide play. Specifically actions with weapons that occur at wide measure. The distance that is defined by the longest attack with only a single foot movement
Zogho stretto: close play. Specifically actions with or without weapons that occur in close measure.  To be able to hit without stepping

Monday, November 23, 2015

Wrestling Fundamentals Series: November 22 - Wrestling, No Man's Land, and Weapons

Fitness and Movement Programming

Circle drill

The circle drill is a summary of all of the basic movements in wrestling.  It can be used as a warm up and a way to provide conditioning.

Pummelling drill:  How many different ways can you obtain control?

Review all of the different ties that you know as you pummel for control.

Lock Flows

Drill 1:  Lock flows

Here are two examples of lock flows.  The idea of a lock flow is to move fluidly from one lock position to another as the opponent shifts and alters in an effort to escape. 

1. Spiralling wrist lock then,
Shoulder into the arm leading to,
an upwards arm bar, then transition into
a downward arm bar spiral, then
shoulder lock with the near arm, and switch to
come along

2. bassai (bong sau) lock, followed by
upward torque lock (aikido sankyo), then
shoulder lock with near arm, then
another wrist lock straight down, then
shelving it (over hook/fiore lock)
release to spiral throw

The interface between striking and grappling range

As a wrestler I do not want to be in the no man’s land between striking and grappling for very long. As a striker I want to stay out of this range as well.  Nevertheless this is where fights often end up. It's worth looking at the interface between striking and grappling in a bit more detail.

Incidentally, this in between range is often where wrestling is depicted in medieval texts.  I wonder about the context of such depictions.  Context is everything.  If I try to apply a technique without consideration of context then I lose awareness and I am open to counter attacks.  What is the proper context to apply a specific technique?  What is the context for wrestling techniques to occur in general?  What happens after a given technique is applied?

A way to remember context is to use the idea of the decision tree that leads to your destroy the enemies' resolve to fight.  As you recall,  the encounter often begins with opponents who are separated by distance.  The fighting may begin with weapons or with striking, or with two opponents facing off at close range but not yet engaged.  Wrestling techniques fit into this backdrop.  The first problem to face is that of entering.  The second problem is to obtain control.  The third problem is the takedown.  The forth is to maintain control while you destroy the opponent's resolve.  If you try to wrestle when the fight is more properly at a striking range you will become vulnerable because you will be entranced be making your wrestling work out of context.  To try to apply a specific technique without maintaining awareness of the larger context you will create the vulnerability that your opponent can capitalize on.

Controlling the arms and elbow to break clinches and prevent chancery

To make the following techniques work, use full dynamic full body motion to drive them.

Elbow control 

Overhook and underhook positions can afford you with elbow control in the no man's land distance between grappling and striking.

The overhook position can result in:

  • a snapping elbow armbar
  • a whizzer (lock inwards and/or downwards)
  • shelving: a shoulder lock where you roll the opponents elbow inward (Upper Key?)

The underhook position can result in: 

  • a snapping elbow armbar as well: his elbow slides over your shoulder and you can lock it downwards
  • shoulder lock: you can wind around the opponents arm to acquire a "key"

When you are outside of your opponent (the roverso side!)

The direction of the opponent's elbow determines the way the armbar is applied
  • elbow aimed up, go down
  • elbow outwards go sideways
  • elbow down go under and apply force up
Shoulder locks are possible with both near and far arm

Defensive Controlling of the head

You can pre-empt take downs and strikes by controlling the head.   You can drive strongly into you opponent by sagging and then by using a drop step with one or both hands (posta longa, frontale) and/or  by sagging and squaring up
  • One hand into throat or face
  • Two hands into throat or face

What sorts of take down opportunities and follow throughs are possible?


As far as I know this is holding onto someone while you are hitting them.


Insertions are short range strikes that can be inserted into wrestling.  Why do insertions?

Together with locks, insertions  comprise techniques which can injure within the grappling context. They can be used to destroy resolve or to manipulate.  By definition they are chancery. Straight punches and gently curving hooks generally occur in the transition from long range to close range.

Short range strikes

  • Hammer blows (to face, neck, collarbone, and body)
  • Close Hooks and uppercuts
  • Back of the forearm or hand to face or neck
  • Cram (drive forearm into the throat horizontally or diagonally)
  • Popper (hitting with the inside crook of your arm)
  • Shrugs (hitting with shoulder)
  • Cover the mouth and nose
  • Hacksaw (grate the  front or back forearm across the face or ear)
  • Poking with thumb, fingers, and using the crotch of the thumb

Defences against short range strikes

  • All head and neck attacks are susceptible to duck unders
  • turning your head away
  • controlling opponent's arms
  • counterattacks
  • side control
  • get away


  • across
  • up
  • down (spike)
  • corkscrew down
  • back elbows

Defence of elbows

  • stifle them (put your hand on their elbow)
  • lift them (this results in a duck under)
  • pull them down
  • control arms
  • counterattack strikes
  • get to the side or get behind
  • get away

Low Blows (to the groin)

  • slaps
  • grabs
  • uppercuts

Defence against low blows

  • arm control
  • good 2 on 1 position with control
  • combination ties with control
  • getting away

Head Butts 

  • Use the the scalp from the hairline to the first vital area to strike
  • Use a driving motion upwards and inwards, rather than whapping your forehead at them
Defence against head butts

  • good 2 on 1 position
  • control the head by cupping the chin
  • jamming the head
  • turning your head away
  • head lock counter
  • using your head for control


Knees can be delivered without a clinch, the opponent may have you in a clinch or you may have him in one.
  • control the head to enable  knee kicks
  • if you have him in an overhook and you bend down with your overhook leg back he can knee you in the head

Defence against knees  
  • spikes with the elbows
  • pat in
  • pat out
  • jam with hands into face to break the clinch

Stomps (stomps can set up throws)

  • Purring kick
  • low side kicks


We worked on elbows, head butts, and stomps.

Broadly speaking, the defence against insertions to to get to the side of and behind your opponent.

Wrestling in the context of weapons

What changes when you wrestle with weapons?

  • You and your opponent both focus on the weapon
  • Weapons get in the way of your own moves
  • Weapons provide alternative ways to counter
  • Weapons can augment leverage on locks
  • Weapons magnify and concentrate force


  • Both people use a short stick and engage from a distance.  How can you get in?  Think of entering as just another attack. If you stick fight and use entering as just another possible attack it makes more sense.
  • Only one person has a stick.  How does this change things?  If you try to wrestle while you have a stick in your hand it feels awkward.  If you are without a weapon while your opponent has on you feel more vulnerable.

Ground fighting drills.  

  • Only one person has a stick.  How does this change things?

We also went over the vital areas.  Some but not all of the vital area that are depicted in asian and western writings do not seem to be practical targets when limited to unarmed striking.  This context is often how vital areas are taught.  If you think of vital area attacks in the context of wrestling or fighting with weapons, however,  many solid and realistic applications can be discovered. Simply put, many vital areas are most easily attacked when using a weapon to strike or to apply pressure during grappling.